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It’s easy to throw healthy eating habits out the window when you’re away from home and your regular routine. Andrea D’Ambrosio, RD talks about ways to create a healthy winter routine while staying on a budget.

Plan ahead and stick to a list
Being prepared before you grab your grocery cart will help you avoid impulse purchases. It also gives you time to look at flyers, find sales and clip coupons. Try taking advantage of no-name products and avoiding shopping while you’re hungry.

Shop in season and avoid being wasteful
Buy in-season foods from local farmer’s markets, which is cheaper, and be resourceful with leftovers, using up excess food before it goes to waste, she says.

Consider vegetarian alternatives
If you study your grocery bill, meat products are often among the most expensive items. Consider planning meals with vegetarian alternatives like lentils, beans and soy. Check out vegetarian websites for heart- and budget-healthy meal ideas, she suggests.

Here are 5 friendly foods and the reasons you should add them to your grocery list:

  1. Fresh, seasonal fruit: A favorite snack to boost energy levels between meals if you feel a little hungry (power of carbs) and allows you to benefit from vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  1. Low-fat (1 percent) or non-fat milk: In order to maintain our bone density, we need to consume adequate dairy to receive calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and protein, which are all essential for bone growth and development.
  1. Whole grains: According to the Journal of Nutrition (2011), oats, barley, rice and quinoa all lower risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well contribute to body-weight management and gastrointestinal health. Try buying whole-grain pasta and remember to look for the words “whole grain” on the label.
  1. Almonds: But just a handful a day, and make them unsalted! A portion-controlled (quarter cup) serving of almonds is excellent for lowering cholesterol because of the unsaturated fats, making them a heart-healthy choice. Almonds are high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and are naturally high in fiber and a good source of protein!
  1. Edamame: Green soybeans, made popular in Japanese cuisine but available in grocery stores, add a nice nutritional punch. These tasty soybeans can be added as a side dish, steamed in the pod or consumed as a snack or appetizer. Nutritionally speaking, they are another heart-healthy source of protein, fiber and vitamins.

http://www.thestar.com/specialsections/snowbirds/article/1301135–fill-your-southern-grocery-cart-with-healthy-foods

http://www.dieteticdirections.com/

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Swiss Chard You Say?

Swiss Chard You Say?

One of the most nutritious vegetable options out there, Swiss chard is also one of the most ignored. Its flavor, similar to beets, usually holds equal parts sweet and bitter.

NUTRITION: At 15 calories per half-cup serving, Swiss chard packs one heck of a healthy punch with vitamins K, A and C and phytonutrients.

HOW TO CHOOSE: Always buy Swiss chard from refrigerated displays to ensure freshness. You want to choose vivid green leaves with no signs of wilting.

HOW TO STORE: Don’t rinse Swiss chard before storing because it will lead to spoilage. Tightly wrap it in a plastic storage bag and keep it in the refrigerator where it can stay fresh for up to five days.

HOW TO USE: This is one of the few veggies that you can boil without losing nutrients, and it brings out a sweeter taste. To serve, toss with your favorite dressing.

Healthy Swiss Chard just picked!

While Swiss chard is a great vegetable to eat raw in salads and sandwiches, this versatile and nutrient-concentrated vegetable can serve as a great addition to most any cooked recipe. Yet, like with all foods it is important to consider how cooking can affect its nutrient content, taste, texture and color, so that you can insure that you are receiving the very best that this leafy green vegetable has to offer every time you eat it. While there are limited research studies on how to cook Swiss chard to maintain its optimal nutritional value, published studies all support what we emphasize on the World’s Healthiest Foods website: short cooking times are the best.

Nutrients in Swiss chard

Swiss chard is a power food, a storehouse of many different vitamins, minerals and nutrients. In fact, based upon the nutrient rating system we developed at the World’s Healthiest Foods, Swiss chard is an excellent source of 9 nutrients, a very good source of 7 nutrients and a good source of 7 nutrients. Swiss chard is a nutrition star!(link to either Food Rating Table or Nutritional Profile for chard).

As a member of the goosefoot family of plants (also called the chenopod family), Swiss chard is in the company of and beets (which originally and still grow wild around parts of the Mediterranean), quinoa (which originated in the valleys of the Andes and was a staple food for the Inca civilization) and spinach). Chard’s unique heritage as a member of the goosefoot family is one of the reasons it is so valuable nutritionally.

Short term cooking can best retain Swiss chard’s nutrients–focus on vitamin C:

As noted above, cooking Swiss chard for minimal amounts of time is key to maximizing it nutrient profile. This is because many of the nutrients concentrated in Swiss chard are susceptible to damage from heat and water.

Looking to the 12 nutrients for which Swiss chard is an excellent source, let’s take vitamin C as an example of how cooking may impact the nutrient content of this vegetable. Studies that have examined the impact of cooking upon vitamin C have shown that short-duration cooking (3-6 minutes) resulted in vitamin C loss of 25% or less while studies involving longer cooking times (10-20 minutes) have shown that 50% or more of the vitamin C may become lost.

How important is it to preserve this vitamin C? Consider these numbers: in one cup of chard, costing you only 35 calories, there are 32 milligrams of vitamin C. These numbers rank chard right alongside of freshly squeezed organic orange juice as a source of vitamin C! Cooking the chard for too long is like leaving half of your freshly squeezed organic orange juice sitting in the glass.

Short term cooking can best retain Swiss chard’s nutrients–focus on potassium and magnesium:

Other examples of how cooking can impact the nutrient content of Swiss chard involve the minerals in which Swiss chard is concentrated. Included in chard’s “excellent amount” category are the minerals potassium and magnesium, and both are particularly vulnerable to reductions from cooking. Even blanching for several minutes may greatly reduce the content of these minerals. Applying insights gleaned from studies focused on nutrient losses from cooked spinach, where blanching for several minutes resulted in a reduction of over 50% of potassium and approximately one-third of magnesium, we once again see how minerals are at risk for nutrient loss during cooking and how important using minimal cooking times can be.

How cooking affects oxalates in Swiss chard

Swiss chard is one of the vegetables that contain oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and in humans. Although there are a few, relatively rare health conditions that require strict oxalate restriction (hypertext to oxalate article here), for the vast majority of individuals, oxalate-containing foods should not be a health concern.

While we have not seen research on cooking, Swiss chard, and oxalates, there is some research on this topic with another chenopod family vegetable, spinach. Research has shown that the boiling of spinach in large amounts of water helps decrease the oxalic acid content by as much as 50%.

Maintaining vibrant color

While the rich colors of Swiss chard can be attributed to a host of different phytonutrients, chlorophyll is a major contributor to its rich green color. Chlorophyll contributes a green color to vegetables and plants since it reflects sunlight at exact appropriate wavelengths for our eyes to detect them as green.

Prolonged cooking results in a dramatic loss of chlorophyll. Excessive heating results in the removal of the magnesium from the center of the chlorophyll molecule causing it to turn into a molecule called pheophytin, which results in a noticeable change in color from from bright green to olive-gray. Therefore, to maintain the vibrant green color of Swiss chard and the potential health benefits supplied by the chlorophyll phytonutrients it is important to cook it for minimal amounts of time.

In the world of processed food, you can never trust your senses to tell you whether a food is nutritious or not. There are too many ways for a food manufacturer to trick your taste buds and your eyes. There are artificial flavors and artificial colors in the majority of non-organic, processed foods. But in the world of cooking and organically-grown food, it is amazing just how much you can trust your senses! You can depend on your taste buds and your eyes! When chard color starts to look lifeless, guess what? The chard is losing something – in this case, the magnesium found in its chlorophyll.

Enhanced taste and texture

One of the reasons that many people don’t like green leafy vegetables is that they equate these foods with a soggy, limp texture that also can contribute to a taste profile that is compromised. Yet, this texture and taste are not inherent to the vegetables themselves but are caused by the overcooking that the vegetable has experienced either in the home or in a restaurant. Therefore, by only cooking Swiss chard for only a few minutes as opposed to a longer period of time, you will not only be able to enjoy the nutrients inherent in this vegetable, but its great taste and texture.

Once again, your senses can be your guide here. If you had a plant at home, or in your garden, and it started looking limp, you would automatically think that it had either too much water, too little water, or had been exposed to too much sun. Assume the same thing about the the chard you are preparing: too much heat, too much contact with boiling water or steam and you’ll observe the exact same consequence.

Practical tips

To maximize the content of the nutrients of which Swiss chard is concentrated, quickly cook this leafy green vegetable, covering the pot or pan. Steaming for 2-3 minutes is the method we highly suggest. Not only will this method help to retain nutrient content, but will provide you with a vegetable bursting with taste, great texture and bright color.

Swiss Chard growing in the garden!